Posted by Justin Rice
Many visitors to Salem associated witches with the 1692 Witch Trials or a slew of fictional characters from Samantha in "Bewitched" to the "Wizard of Oz’s" Glenda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West. But despite its negative and fantastical connotations, witchcraft is a religion practiced by more than a quarter million people.
And Salem is its Mecca.
A group based in the "Witch City" called The Young Witches of Salem is trying to put a face on its religion with a new reality web series. The series aims to debunk myths about witchcraft and help adolescents who practice the religion cope with living as witches.
“It is a reality show that is following the journey of multiple young witches as they learn about the craft,” said Katrina Kessler, 22, who is a director and producer on the series and an employee at the World of Witches Museum. “By the end of this project each person forms their own ideas of what they think it means to be a witch and they can show the world what they think it means to be a witch.
“This idea has been a long time coming. We’ve always wanted to show the world what witchcraft was and we couldn’t figure out a way to bring it to non witches in a way they’d be accepting of it.”
The series started filming on Oct. 1 to coincide will the annual celebration of Haunted Happenings in Salem. Two episodes have already been posted online and a third will be posted during the first week of November. They plan on doing a total of 14 episodes, Kessler said.
“Surprisingly a lot of people don’t believe witches exist at all,” Kessler said. “They believe they are fictional characters or monsters in fairy tales that don’t exist. They don’t realize it’s a religion. They think we are green faced witches who scare children and ride around on brooms or nice one’s that float in a bubble.
“We are neither of those. We are just a group of people like anyone else trying to make the world a better place in whatever way we can.”
Kessler said the central tenet of the religion, which draws off pagan beliefs, is “Do as you will but harm unto none” and that many of the rituals look a lot like those in Mass or temple. Much of the filming of the series is done at the World of Witches Museum (57 Wharf St.), which opened on last year and is operated by practicing witches. The museum also operates an online witch school.
The series follows young witches Lexi Renee, Caitlin Rose, Peter Murphy and Danielle Young, who are all openly practicing witches.
“We didn’t want to bring anyone out of the broom closet on the Internet,” Kessler said. “All of their family and friends are very much aware. This is them kind of getting an education super duper fast and seeing how much they can absorb and what they can do with it.”
Throughout the series the young witches are introduced to the leaders of their craft in Salem, including Theresa Pendragon and Daniel Greenwolf.
"Salem can be a very lonely place for a Young Witch,” Young said in a press release. “The Elders of Salem take on very few students, groups are extremely private, and there are few public rituals performed. It requires knowing somebody who knows somebody who knows the High Priestess to get an invitation.”
Renee, 18, moved to Salem from South Carolina, where she led a Wiccan group called the Order of the White Vixen.
"In every High School, there is a secret circle; you just have to find it,” Renee said in the press release. “Sometimes you may be the one who starts it, but it is always there.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.